RealTime IT News

Report Finds Flaws In Top E-Commerce Sites

Good Reports LLC, a new research/analysis firm that focuses on Internet business, released a report that details "egregious errors" found on some of the Web's most popular and seemingly successful e-commerce sites.

The flaws identified in the report, entitled "In Search of E-Commerce," speak to the Web's woeful lack of user-friendliness, particularly for consumers seeking to purchase goods and services online, the company said.

The report details what's good and what's bad about today's top sites, including Amazon.com, America Online, Dell, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Microsoft Expedia and CDNow.

"We chose these sites because they well represent today's best of breed in e- commerce. Despite their reported success, it was stunning to see how difficult and inconvenient it is to spend money online. These sites have the potential to make a lot more money than they do now," said Mark Hurst, president of Good Reports.

"It's incredible that so many e-commerce sites are so difficult to use. Many designers fail to realize that if people are already on the site, they are already willing to buy. They need to make it easy to buy, not hard."

The report asserts that many of the problems stem from "a disconnect" between site designers and their intended audiences.

"Branding is the buzzword in the media and at industry trade shows," said Robert Seidman, CEO of Good Reports. "But no amount of marketing dollars can help a poorly designed site. There's a reason Yahoo! and America Online are so successful, and it's not just because they shell out mega-bucks on television commercials. Their sites are easy to use, and that's invaluable to any brand."

According to the report, one of the easiest ways to guarantee e-commerce failure is to make customers download a plug-in to buy online. As an example, Apple Computer's popular Apple Store makes this mistake by forcing all mail- order customers to download the Adobe Acrobat Reader, a five-megabyte file, in order to print the order form.

Amazon.com, arguably the Web's biggest e-commerce success story, also has some major ease-of-use errors, the report said. Amazon.com's search form is virtually hidden on the right side of the page, far from where a potential buyer's eye is focused. Search results were sub-par, and the site contains an inordinate number of links that distract customers from the book-buying process, the report said.

America Online fared well in ease-of-use, in part because it doesn't use toolbars or animated graphics. Simplicity is the core of AOL's success.

The report is available for $1,495 and can be purchased online at goodreports.com, or by calling 1-888-713-4187. Customers who purchase the report online will receive a $200 discount.